The Elon University football team will play its final game of the 2014 season Nov. 22 when it travels to Harrisonburg, Va., to face No. 17 James Madison University, the fifth ranked opponent the Phoenix will play this year.
The game will mark the final chance for Elon, which currently sits at 1-10 and 0-7 in the Colonial Athletic Association, to pick up its first conference win. It will also be the final game for Elon’s group of 12 seniors, who have mixed emotions heading into the team’s matchup against the Dukes.
“It’s definitely tough to leave, but at the same time, you want to just enjoy your last moment playing college football, playing with your brothers, so that’s what I’m going to try to do,” senior wide receiver Kierre Brown said.
Despite the struggles the team has experienced this season, the attitude around the team has been generally positive, a mentality instilled by Elon’s veteran leaders.
“We’re just taking it week by week,” senior linebacker Odell Benton said. “Being an older guy who’s been through what I’ve been through, I don’t want my younger guys to go through the same thing I went through. So, each day, we just look at it as a building block for the years to come.”
Elon is coming off a 24-17 loss to the University of Maine Nov. 15. The Phoenix had a chance to tie the game on multiple occasions late in the fourth quarter, ultimately falling a score short. Senior quarterback Mike Quinn struggled in his final home game, throwing three interceptions in the loss.
James Madison (8-3, 5-2), is coming off a 55-20 shellacking of Richmond University Nov. 15, the team’s sixth straight win following a 2-3 start to the season.
SCOUTING THE RICHMOND OFFENSEThe James Madison offense runs through junior quarterback Vad Lee, a transfer from Georgia Tech. Lee has put up huge numbers in his first year in the CAA, leading the conference with 278.7 passing yards per game. Lee has done damage with his feet as well, currently ranking as the eighth-best rusher in the CAA.
As an offense, the Dukes are averaging 497.5 yards per game, tops in the conference, while putting up 34.9 points per game, good for third in the league.
Lee had his best game of the year Nov. 15, throwing for 433 yards and two touchdowns on 27-of-37 passing.
“[Lee] gives you the ultimate challenge as a defense,” Elon head coach Rich Skrosky said. “I think the key is you gotta change it up. I don’t think you go in and say, ‘We’re just going to defend the run,’ I don’t think you go in and say, ‘We’re just going to defend the pass,’ I think you gotta have a change up for him.”
SCOUTING THE RICHMOND DEFENSEAs far as rankings go, James Madison’s defense is generally unimpressive, residing in the bottom half of the conference in most defensive categories.
The Dukes giving up 434.4 yards per game, the second worst mark in the CAA, and nearly 20 more yards per game than Elon. James Madison also surrenders 29.5 points per game, third worst in the league.
But look no further than the Dukes’ Nov. 15 game against Richmond to see what they are capable of.
The defense forced five Richmond turnovers on the game including two interceptions for touchdowns by cornerback Taylor Reynolds. The sophomore also forced two fumbles and was named CAA Defensive Player of the Week Nov. 17.
“When our game ended [Nov. 15], I got the scores right away, and I hear 55-20, I was a little surprised but really 28 points came off the defense,” Skrosky said, noting the four turnovers forced by Reynolds. “They really had a complete game.”
PREDICTIONRichmond 42, Elon 13
The Dukes, led by Lee, sport one of the most explosive offenses in the CAA. The Phoenix, led by Quinn, don’t. Though the Phoenix has played better on defense in the latter half of games of late (10 points given up in the last three second halves), it will struggle to contain Lee and finish the season without a CAA victory.